NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinals Predictions

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Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz

It’s weird that the Jazz lost two at home in the last series and still managed to win.  They had to win Game 1 in LA after Rudy Gobert went down in the opening seconds and then Game 7 with Gobert in foul trouble (he played only 13 minutes). But, they lost 2 games at home, one of which Blake Griffin didn’t play at all, and the other being the game he went down in. But, while playing in their arena might not be a huge advantage to the Jazz, they’re certainly mentally tough enough to step up to a challenge and won’t be scared, even when the Warriors go on big runs. The talent gap is too wide for the Jazz to have any real shot at the series, but I won’t be surprised if they’re able to take one, which is more than I could have said for the Clippers.

Warriors in 5

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Photo by Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

There are so many X factors in this series, it’s hard to say how the Rockets as a team will shoot, how James Harden, specifically will play after not being great in the last series against the Thunder, despite beating them in 5. On the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard has been the only reliably great player so far. Tony Parker has had flashes of his previous greatness and LaMarcus Aldridge has been good at times. I think Kawhi Leonard has another great series the Spurs dominate Rockets unless Harden comes back into his early-mid season form.

Spurs in 5

NBA Playoff Predictions – Round 1

Eastern Conference

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics
Photo by David Butler II/USA Today

Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

I think the Celtics will struggle out of the gate. They’ve had poor playoff showings, and the Bulls can be good with enough rest, which the first round provides. I do think they eventually pull it off because they’re definitely the better team. But, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Bulls pull off the upset.

Celtics in 7

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Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA Today

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indian Pacers

It’s that time of year, LeBron will go supernova and make everyone feel silly for doubting they could turn it up in the playoffs. This might end up being a sweep, but I think Paul George wills his team to win at least one at home.

Cavaliers in 5

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Photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA Today

Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are great, and just having Giannis Antetokounmpo means they have a chance to win every game. In fact, the Bucks winning the series is totally plausible. But, I think the Raptors getting deep into the playoffs last year puts them in a better space and will give them the mental edge they’ll need to win a tough series.

Raptors in 7

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Photo by Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks

It’s tough to trust either of these teams in a playoff series, but I think the Wizards have shown they’re the more consistent of these two. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been incredible this year and the Hawks have had great flashes, but I don’t think they can win four against this Wizards team.

Wizards in 5

 

Western Conference

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers kept the series somewhat competitive last year, and I think it’s possible they might’ve won one in Portland if Jusuf Nurkic was healthy, but without him, the Warriors biggest weakness isn’t much of a weakness at all against this Blazers team. The Blazers might get hot at the same time the Warriors go cold, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Warriors in 4

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Photo by Antonio Morano

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs and Grizzlies split the regular season series 2-2 this year. The Spurs are definitely the better team, but I think the mostly-healthy Grizzlies will make it a competitive series this year.

Spurs in 6

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Photo by Nate Billings/The Oklahoman

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Rockets are the better team, but the “clutch” stats are where the Thunder have a major edge. Also, a lot of Harden’s game is getting to the line for fouls that get called less often during the playoffs. The Rockets could end up blowing out the Thunder and sweeping, but I think the Thunder take this series.

Thunder in 6

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Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz

I so badly want to pick the Jazz, but they seem to beat up on bad teams and rarely beat good teams. The Clippers can always find a way to blow it, but I think they’ll wait till the 2nd round to do that. I just hope the Jazz put up a fight.

Clippers in 6

NBA 2016-2017 Season Predictions

(most stats from Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted)

NBA 2016-2017 Regular Season Predictions

Full Standings:

standings

Western Conference

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1 – Golden State Warriors – 67-15

So much has been written about this Warriors team, so I’ll keep it brief. This team probably COULD win 73 (or more), but I feel like they will be resting a lot, especially down the stretch. I assume they’ll make sure they lock up the #1 seed, but I don’t anticipate them chasing 70+ to break their own record.

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2 – Los Angeles Clippers – 56-26

I couldn’t decide if this team was better than the Spurs, but age and continuity are on the Clippers‘ side. I think this team will be lights out when they keep Blake, CP3, DeAndre, and JJ on the court, and probably still pretty good if (when) Blake has to miss some time. But they will probably be a (distant) second in the West.

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3 – San Antonio Spurs – 53-29

The Spurs should round out the obvious top 3 in the West. I might’ve had them 2nd, but with Danny Green starting the season injured, and many of their most important players aging, I see them coasting to just over 50 wins because they will still be an excellent team with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

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4 – Memphis Grizzlies – 47-35

Health will need to be on the Grizzlies‘ side, which certainly isn’t a given. But, I think this team will be pretty good. Chandler Parsons can help bring this team some shooting in their starting lineup, and as much as it pains me to see Z-Bo on the bench, I think it might be for the best. I do think Dave Joerger is a great coach, but a change might be what this team needed and having a new leader in Dave Fizdale help give this team a boost.

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5 – Portland Trail Blazers – 45-37

The Blazers‘ defense concerns me, but Terry Stotts is such a great coach that I think he’ll find a way to keep this team from giving games away and leaning on their offense to get the job done. Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were great last year, and will probably improve even more this year. If this team can be halfway decent on defense, they’ll definitely be in the playoff mix.

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6 – Utah Jazz – 44-38

I’d have the Jazz a little higher if it weren’t for the Gordon Hayward injury. Adding great players and smart veterans Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw should take this team to the next level. They’ll be great defensively and when Hayward gets back, they should have a great offense. If they can stay around .500 by the time Hayward gets back, they may even be playing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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7 – Dallas Mavericks – 42-40

I thought the Mavericks might miss the playoffs last year, but I learned not to doubt the duo of Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Having Andrew Bogut at center makes this team even better than last year and I think Harrison Barnes might have a better year than people expect now that he won’t be a 4th option on offense. This team will at least be good enough to make the playoffs, and could possibly win in the high 40’s, but I don’t expect that just yet.

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8 – Oklahoma City Thunder – 41-41

Despite losing KD, the Thunder still might make the playoffs with the West being so top-heavy now. Steven Adams was great last year and will likely improve. Victor Oladipo might prove to be a much better scorer with Westbrook as his point guard and Billy Donovan as his coach. I’m expecting wins in the low 40’s and a playoff spot as long as the Rockets don’t figure out how to defend and the Pelicans have their usual health issues.

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9 – Houston Rockets – 40-42

The Rockets, much like the Blazers, should be a top team on offense, but I think the Rockets’ defense will be bad enough that they’ll only be able to win against bad teams. The team is pairing infamous non-defender, James Harden, with Mike D’Antoni, also infamous for de-valuing defense. This team will have no problem scoring, but unless they can stop other teams from getting easy buckets, they’ll have a tough time beating any good teams.

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10 – New Orleans Pelicans – 39-43

The Pelicans have so much talent, it just hurts to see them have so many injury troubles. I’m hopeful Anthony Davis can play most of the season healthy. If he can, they might be able to make the playoffs. The other major questions are whether or not Alvin Gentry can be an effective coach, especially on defense, when Jrue Holiday will be able to return, and if rookie, Buddy Hield can be as great an NBA player as he was in college. If things break right, they can make their return to the playoffs and Anthony Davis might even be an MVP candidate.

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11 – Minnesota Timberwolves – 37-45

I think the Timberwolves will be much better this year than they were last year, and I think they do have a chance to go to the playoffs. But, I think it’s more likely they make a great, not an unbelievable improvement in Thibs‘ first year as their coach.

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12 – Denver Nuggets – 34-48

The Nuggets won’t be great, but they should be decent. Jokic and Mudiay will hopefully improve and another season under Mike Malone might make this team more comfortable as a whole.

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13 – Sacramento Kings – 31-51

I would love to see the Kings improve, especially because I do think their new coach, Dave Joerger can help manage the personalities on this team. But, they have major problems at point guard with Darren Collison suspended 8 games for domestic abuse and Ty Lawson already having issues showing up. Unless they figure out what they’re doing at that position, they find some stability at that position, I do not anticipate them making the leap this year, which sucks, because Boogie deserves better.

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14 – Los Angeles Lakers – 29-53

The Lakers will be better under Luke Walton than they were under Byron Scott/Kobe, but they’ll need some time to figure out how to play with such a young team. Hopefully (for Lakers fans) Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell can take the reigns and get this team headed in the right direction.

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15 – Phoenix Suns – 26-56

The Suns are going to be very bad (probably by design). But, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe will be fun to watch.

Eastern Conference

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1 – Cleveland Cavaliers – 56-26

The Cavs probably could win 60+ games, but I expect them to mostly coast through the regular season and make some effort to get the #1 seed. The only caveat here is if LBJ decides he does want to go all out and get another MVP. But, I think he knows he’d rather save himself for the playoffs again.

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2 – Boston Celtics – 55-27

The Celtics made a big leap last year and adding Horford should put them into the mid-50’s this season and probably right between the Cavs and Raptors. I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown will be able to contribute right away, but if he does, this team could make a run for the #1 seed if the Cavs let them.

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3 – Toronto Raptors – 52-30

The Raptors should be about the same last year, I think they win a few less games due to some of the other teams getting a little bit better and Jared Sullinger‘s injury. I would be surprised if they’re not a top 4 East team.

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4 – Indiana Pacers- 47-35

Part of me wants to say the Pacers will be worse without Frank Vogel, but having Nate McMillan will keep continuity. Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson could be great new contributors for this team and Myles Turner will probably improve. This team could end up a anywhere in the 40-50 win range, but upper 40’s seems likely.

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5 – Charlotte Hornets – 45-37

The Hornets might miss Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson, but I think Roy Hibbert might still have something left in the tank and hope he can contribute. I’m not so sure about Marco Belinelli, but I trust Steve Clifford to find a way to make him effective. This (along with a lot of other East teams) is another team that could be anywhere in the 40-50 win rage.

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6 – Atlanta Hawks – 44-38

I don’t think the Hawks be quite as good without Al Horford and Jeff Teague, but I really hope it works with Dwight at center and Dennis Schröder as their starting point guard. This team has a high ceiling, but I’m not totally confident they’ll reach that.

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7 – Washington Wizards – 43-39

I think the Wizards will make it back to the playoffs. Adding Ian Mahinmi feels like a step in the right direction. Hopefully Bradley Beal can stay on the court for most of the season. If not, they may end up back in the lottery.

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8 – Detroit Pistons – 41-41

The Reggie Jackson injury will hurt the Pistons. I don’t think it will knock them out of the playoffs, but it’s possible. Hopefully Drummond can keep up the great play he started off with last year and make it last throughout the season this time.

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9 – New York Knicks – 38-44

It is so hard to know how the Knicks will do. Not just with injuries, but general cohesiveness. While some of these teams are in 30-40 and 40-50 win ranges, this team is in a 25-50 win range.

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10 – Orlando Magic – 37-45

The Magic have a bizarre too-big lineup that might keep them ultra slow. But, it might also work best for Frank Vogel. Serge Ibaka had a weird last year with the Thunder, but he might thrive being a top 2 option on offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the playoff mix, but don’t expect them to.

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11 – Chicago Bulls – 35-47

The Bulls and Knicks are in similar positions, both have a weird mix of over-the-hill stars with injury history and some young talent. The Knicks at least have some guys who can shoot. The Bulls will have a really tough time with perimeter scoring and don’t have guys that will be durable enough to make it through the season if they have to attack the rim on every possession. This team has the talent to be around .500, but probably won’t be due to injuries.

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12 – Milwaukee Bucks – 33-49

I would love to see the Bucks back in the playoffs, but I think the Khris Middleton injury is going to put them too far behind. Giannis will be a whole lot of fun and I hope Jabari makes a big leap this year. But, I would be surprised if this team makes it to .500.

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13 – Miami Heat – 27-55

This is going to be a very weird Heat team. No Wade/no Bosh is one thing, having Hassan Whiteside as your franchise player is… dangerous, to say the least. Whiteside, Dragic, and Winslow might all be good. But, I would not be surprised if Riley punts on this season if things aren’t going well.

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14 – Philadelphia 76ers – 25-57

Even if Ben Simmons‘ injury keeps him out all season, the 6ers should still be fun (and a whole lot better than last year). Dario Saric and Joel Embiid will be fun to watch, I just hope Embiid can stay on the court for most of the season.

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15 – Brooklyn Nets – 21-61

I hope Nets fans will enjoy the wins when they come. This team won’t be as exciting as some younger teams, but at least their fans know they aren’t TRYING to lose.

NBA Playoffs – 1st Round Predictions

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA Playoffs – Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
Photo by David Richard/USA Today

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons – Cavs in 5

This is similar to last year’s matchup with the Celtics, which resulted in a sweep. A young team with a great coach (Brad Stevens) facing LeBron James and two (previous) all-star caliber players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This year, the Cavs‘ younger players have playoff experience too. But, the Pistons have Reggie Jackson, who has been to the NBA Finals and played in the Western Conference Finals. The Pistons also have Andre Drummond, an NBA Allstar this year. But, a major difference between Brad Stevens and Pistons’ coach, Stan Van Gundy, is his playoff experience. He’s taken teams to the Finals and is no stranger to the first round. Tyronn Lue, on the other hand, has only coached half a a regular NBA Season; but is no stranger to Championship runs as a player (much like Steve Kerr last year). The Pistons are good enough to make this a competitive series. But, the Cavs know their best chance to beat the Warriors down the road is to be less  banged-up and better rested. They will be motivated to end this quickly. Also, if the Cavs can get this done in 4, Justin Bieber won’t have to move his Cleveland performance.

Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers – Raptors in 5

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Photo by Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

The Raptors last 2 playoff appearances ended in first round exits. In 2014 they lost in 7 games to the Brooklyn Nets, then got swept in 2015 by the Wizards. They’re a better team this year, and they know they have to advance this year. They were in striking distance of the 1st seed for most of the season and have been great against the leagues best teams. The Pacers, however, will have the best player on the floor in Paul George. The Pacers had a great start this year but started declining as the season went on. I think Paul George will takeover a game in Naptown and win one of these by himself, but the Raptors will make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets – Hornets in 7

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Photo by Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Heat have the talent and the experience to win this series. Their problem is age. Dwyane Wade has been incredible in so many games this season. But, they’ll likely need to lean on the inexperienced players (in the playoffs) on this team to win 4 our of 7. Goran Dragic has been on and off this season. Hassan Whiteside has barely played a full NBA season before and Justise Winslow is a rookie. Luol Deng is in a similar situation to Wade, he’s been great, but it’s unclear how tired he’ll be a few games in. I have to assume Bosh won’t be playing, but if he is, he’ll still need time to get back into rhythm. The days off between games may give Deng and Wade enough rest time to stay fresh for this series, but I think the Hornets are good enough to keep it competitive long enough for those guys to wear down. Steve Clifford has done an incredible coaching job this year, but Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, and Jeremy Lin have all been great this season and propelled the Hornets to the playoffs when many assumed they’d be awful without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This series could swing either way, but I think the Hornets can pull it off and avenge their 2014 sweep (as the Bobcats).

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics – Hawks in 7

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Photo by Maddie Meyer

These teams are evenly matched in being well-coached units with no single player required to make it work. Both teams certainly have all-star caliber players, but no one that specifically makes either the offense or defense work. While the Celtics have the better coach, Brad Stevens, I think the Hawks have big enough edge talent wise with the duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford on both offense and defense to win this. But it’s entirely possible the Celtics survive and advance.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets  – Warriors in 4

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I know the Rockets won one against he Warriors last year by sleepwalking through the first half. But, if Trevor Ariza doesn’t knee Steph Curry in the head, the Rockets would’ve gotten swept. The Rockets are a mess and there’s not much else to say about that. They backed into the playoffs by beating the Lakers and the Kingsbench. Against any other team, I would count on James Harden taking over a game and the Rockets winning one, but the Warriors have at least three guys who can take over in response. Assuming the Rockets don’t resort to reckless fouls (they probably will), there’s no way this is competitive.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies – Spurs in 4

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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is just going to be sad. Dave Joerger has done an awesome job with the Grizz-zombies. But the Grizzlies have a tough enough time getting their offense going against most teams, there’s no way they’ll be able to make it work against one of the most suffocating defenses ever in the Spurs. This one will be tough to watch and a bummer considering what the Grizzlies have accomplished short-handed.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks- Thunder in 6

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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is similar to the Cavs-Pistons series. A much more talented team with a (so-far) not-great coach against an incredible coach. The difference here is that the Mavericks have playoff experience and Rick Carlisle isn’t just a great coach, but one of the greatest of all time. The Mavericks do not have the talent or the legs to win this, but Dirk and Rick will take advantage of the Thunder‘s 4th quarter woes and win a couple.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Blazers in 7

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Photo by Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Since returning from injury and suspension, Blake Griffin only got 5 games in before the post-season. But the Clippers won all of them. Only two were against playoff teams (the Mavericks and Grizzlies), but it’d be surprising if he’s fully ready for the playoffs and the team as a whole might be in a weird place. These teams seem to be on opposite trajectories. The Blazers surpassed all expectations and went from an 11-20 start to get the 5th seed with a 44-38 record. Damian Lillard is as determined as ever to prove he’s one of the best players in the league, and CJ McCollum has taken an incredible leap this year. The Clippers on the other hand went from briefly being title favorites in 2015 to having just a truly bizarre season. The Clippers obviously CAN win this. But, I predict an earlier implosion than last year’s.